Hulu is touting subscriber momentum, revealing that the streaming service ended 2017 with more than 17 million U.S. subscribers for its subscription on-demand and live TV packages.
That’s up 40% over the last year and a half: Hulu last revealed SVOD subscriber numbers in May 2016, announcing 12 million customers at the time. Also Tuesday, the company announced that its total audience grew to 54 million total unique viewers, up from 47 million in May 2017 — and said 2017 ad revenue reached $1 billion for the first time in the company’s history (but didn’t provide an indication of how much of an increase that represented).
However, Hulu still trails category leader Netflix by a wide margin. Even with the added skinny bundle TV offering, Hulu is about one-third the size of Netflix in the U.S. Netflix reported 52.8 million domestic streaming subscribers as of the end of Q3 2017. It’s also unclear what portion of Hulu’s subscribers are on the live-TV plan (which includes SVOD access) as opposed to SVOD alone.
In 2017, Hulu “took several major steps to become a 21st century direct-to-consumer media company, evolving into both an aggressive SVOD business and a formidable new live TV provider,” newly installed CEO Randy Freer said in announcing the figures. “The year ahead is going to be even bigger, as the company invests more in content — live, library and original — as well as technology and data to make Hulu the leading pay TV choice for consumers.”
Freer, a former Fox Networks exec, assumed the Hulu CEO role in October 2017 after previous chief Mike Hopkins exited to join Sony Pictures Television.
The longer-term future of Hulu remains uncertain: Disney would obtain majority control of Hulu under its mammoth pact to buy 20th Century Fox, 21st Century Fox’s 30% stake in Hulu and other assets. Hulu’s other owners include NBCUniversal (which hold 30%) and Time Warner (with a 10% stake). Disney CEO Bob Iger has said Hulu will be an “adult-oriented product,” versus the more family-targeted Disney direct-to-consumer service planned for 2019.
Hulu, for now, remains committed to winning subscribers — and has been cutting deals to bring more content to the SVOD platform.
In 2017, Hulu expanded its on-demand library to more 75,000 episodes of television across 1,700 titles – more than double the number of episodes available on any other SVOD service including Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, according to the company’s internal data and research firm Ampere Analysis. That included adding all existing episodes of more than 600 series, including “This Is Us,” “Designated Survivor,” “Atlanta,” “Futurama,” “30 Rock,” “Black-ish,” “Lost,” “How I Met Your Mother,” “Bob’s Burgers,” “Will & Grace,” “Power,” “Golden Girls,” “Prison Break,” “Full House” and “Family Matters.”
Also last year, Hulu finally garnered some awards prestige by nabbing 10 Emmy Awards for “The Handmaid’s Tale,” including the first best drama series Emmy won by a streaming service, and two Golden Globes, including best drama series.
According to Hulu, the top three dramas on the service in 2017, based on hours watched, were “Law & Order: SVU,” “This Is Us” and “The Handmaid’s Tale.”
The top three comedies on Hulu in 2017, also based on hours watched, were “South Park,” “Family Guy” and “Bob’s Burgers.” In addition, “Seinfeld” — to which Hulu has exclusive SVOD rights — also cracked the top 10, as viewers watched more than 65 million hours of the sitcom in 2017.
Hulu also said its viewers have a median age of 31, which is 24 years younger than the average broadcast TV viewer (55), and that Hulu subscribers have a median annual household income of $92,000.